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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, October 31, 2017
About this Poem 
“I began ‘Shadowbox’ during a morning writing session with a friend where we took different end-line words (horses, something, decisions) and wrote toward them. Not controlling which end word would come next allowed for our own buried obsessions to rise up and fill the void. I love the term shadowbox for its multiple meanings, as in shadowboxing with the self or in reference to the dreamlike assemblages of Joseph Cornell where memory and history are juxtaposed to create surreal landscapes of the mind.”
—Susan Rich
 

Shadowbox

That night the air stank, the stars obscured behind wild horses
of clouds. I walked on cobblestones on the edge of something

I could not name: new land of unalterable decisions
like a retinue of assassins coming right for me, who kept coming

in a bad dream that dissolved like a black-and-white movie, the dark
mouth enveloping the entire screen. The End. Then the aftermath

like a heroin addict waking up in the overgrowth of a river path,
no longer young. There are nights that pummel your life, chart

an alternate course unasked for and colorless—the way it was
the first time you encountered the one ready to eat out your  heart—

an innocent remark—a joke about ocelots or the weeds of purple carrots.
That night I was caught in a before and after, an unsayable horror film

of half-lives as we hipswayed and grunted along the Seine.
When someone passed us, their teeth shone like those of a vampire

happy with the waste of the world. Ready to drink it in. My body
was four months pregnant, crossing over to a nightmared path

of no return. But isn’t this the truth of every moment?
To revise our lives into the I belong—to this tribe of the unreliable

narrators, luminous in our stories and in our squalor.

Copyright © 2017 by Susan Rich. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 31, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2017 by Susan Rich. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 31, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Susan Rich

Susan Rich

Susan Rich is the author of Cloud Pharmacy (White Pine Press, 2014).

by this poet

poem

Outside my window it’s never the same—
some mornings jasmine slaps the house, some mornings sorrow.

There is a word I overheard today, meaning lost
not on a career path or across a floating bridge:

Boketto—to stare out windows without purpose.
Don’t laugh; it’s been too long since we

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